Exodus 21:1 “…the judgments which you shall set before them…”
Beginning of the Jewish law. They would have done well to just work at keeping these. But they were never able to. And eventually, their religious leaders made the law an idol by adding their thoughts and traditions to it.
2 “…in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing”
Protection for the slave. The Jews were not to treat their brothers as foreigners. Work for six years, but freed on the seventh. Same idea as the Jubilee will be.
6 “…he shall serve him forever”
Interesting. If the man has a wife when he comes into bondage, he leaves with her. But if he’s given a wife by his master, she and any children remain with the master. He can choose to stay, but he becomes a servant forever. Seems a bit harsh and contrary to the idea of marriage. Obvious it was a protection for the masters and their property, but one would think a way could be provided for the wife and children’s freedom. Commentaries suggest the wife provided would have been a foreigner as a Jewish woman would have been set free. Also, a Jewish man was not to marry a foreigner, but was to take care of his wife if he did so. Some commentaries suggested this idea was to help men choose not to wed foreign women, even while in servitude. After all, they would be freed in six years anyway. We also have to remember the culture. Totally different than what we know. And God had His reasons. Some laws He gave because of man’s sin tendency, not to make things better, like divorce. If man followed the main laws, was obedient to God’s heart, he wouldn’t have to deal with the laws against sinful behavior.
7 “…she shall not go out as the male slaves…”
Not be released automatically on her own when her six years are up. She should be set up to get a better deal than the males. She could be bought to become a man’s wife or the wife of his son. If he doesn’t do either, she can be redeemed by her family. If she does become a wife, she must be treated as one completely, even if the man takes other wives. If she becomes a wife and he doesn’t treat her right, she goes out totally free. God took care of women. A lot in the scripture regarding the ancient cultures seems to oppress women, but God never did.
12 “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.”
Basic law of murder. You murder someone, you forfeit your own life. But God looks at the heart, so He includes some variations.
13 “…if he did not lie in wait…”
Wasn’t premeditated murder. Probably an accident. God would set up cities of refuge for those people so they could flee from anyone who might try to seek revenge.
13 “…God delivered him into his hand…”
He’s not saying God used a hit man. It’s a reference to the sovereignty of God. He’s in control of what happens to everyone. If the death was an accident as far as man is concerned, it was still allowed by God.
14 “…you shall take him from My altar…”
I’m thinking this is a reference to the practice of running to the horns of the altar for refuge. God says to remove the person and execute him.
16 “He who kidnaps a man…”
Penalty for kidnapping was death.
17 “…curses his father or his mother…”
Penalty for cursing father or mother was the same as for striking them, death.
19 “…He shall only pay…”
Punishment was meant to fit the crime, not to overdo. If a man caused injury, he was to pay for the injury and nothing more. And if someone was injured, he had a right to expect to be taken care of until he healed, but not for life.
21 “…if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished…”
If the beaten servant doesn’t die immediately, it shows the intent was not to kill him. The master would be incurring financial loss which he didn’t intend. Strange that God gave laws regarding the treatment of slaves and not a command to abolish slavery completely. God takes things in stages with us, to teach us the truth. He doesn’t act impulsively or reactionary. He brings us along to the point we can see His truth and act accordingly. When man tries to take God’s place and force actions on others, nothing is learned, and more problems are caused in the long run. Personally, I believe the problem of cultural prejudice in America would have ended long ago if abolition had not be forced on people. Slavery was wrong and terrible, but God was working it out of society. Had man not tried to play God, I think it would have ended completely within ten to twenty years, and cultural prejudices would have gone with it. People would not have felt slighted and thus would not have sought others to blame.
22 “…no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly…”
Regarding pregnant women being hurt. The unborn child was considered valuable. If the child was OK, only some punishment was rendered to pay for the attack. If not, like harm was expected.
26 “…he shall let him go free…”
Punishing a slave or servant was one thing, but you couldn’t damage them physically. Lose of an eye or tooth meant the slave was freed.
28 “…its flesh shall not be eaten”
It was stoned, not bled out as usual, so it was unclean and not fit to be eaten.
29 “…it has been made known to his owner…”
Negligence on the part of the owner made him culpable for death caused by his animal. If he knew there was a chance the animal could cause harm, he was liable. Seems to me, if a person puts themselves in a position where they know they could cause harm or even death, they are totally liable as though there were intent.
30 “…he shall pay to redeem his life…”
It was possible to redeem one’s life if an amount was imposed. I’m wondering who was doing the imposing. I suspect the family of the one killed. Commentaries agree. Perhaps the family would be better served by a monetary or similar arrangement than the person’s death. In that case, the family did have some input as to what was imposed. No difference if the person killed was a man or woman, both were of equal value. Servants were paid for with the price of a slave, thirty pieces of silver.
34 “…owner of the pit shall make it good…”
Responsible for your actions which might cause others harm.
36 “…if it was known…”
The circumstances surrounding the incident have a bearing on the judgments. Foreknowledge of possible problems assumes responsibility for what might happen.
I hope you enjoy reading and studying His word. May it accomplish what He desires. Please feel free to comment or post questions. Thanks for reading!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.